Scientific Game

Gaming and the nine intelligences

Tuesday, 27 February 2018 14:40
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Sudhir Kale explores the nine types of intelligence as defined by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner and how they apply to the gaming industry. 

DURING my decades of involvement in the gaming industry, I have had the pleasure of knowing many senior executives from all over the world. They are all somewhat unique in terms of their contributions and abilities. What is common across these individuals is their intelligence – intelligence not as typically expressed in IQ terms; rather, the expanded view of intelligence as espoused by renowned Harvard psychologist, Howard Gardner.

My interactions with and observations of many industry stalwarts lead me to conclude that they bring to the table different kinds of “intelligence”.           

First, let us look at the nine different kinds of intelligence that Gardner talks about. Intelligence, Gardner argues, is much more than IQ. In his definition, “Intelligence is a biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture.”

Dissecting this definition yields three key components: (1) Intelligence is biopsychological – not merely cognitive – potential; (2) Intelligence is the ability to process information of all kinds – sensory, emotional, and cognitive; and (3) The information processing inherent in the activation of intelligence occurs in a cultural setting to produce outputs valued by that culture. 

Based on decades of research, Gardner came up with nine distinct kinds of intelligence. These are: Naturalist Intelligence, Musical Intelligence, Logical- Mathematical Intelligence, Existential Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, Linguistic Intelligence, Intrapersonal Intelligence and Spatial Intelligence. Each of these intelligences, he argued, develops somewhat independently of others.

Naturalist Intelligence. This type of intelligence allows a person to be sensitive to and discriminate among living organisms such as plants and animals, and to be able to notice features such as rock formations and the shape of clouds in the sky.

Musical Intelligence. People with musical intelligence love music. Able to discern sounds, tones and rhythm, they have a “good ear” for music. They appreciate rhythm and composition. They are gifted with the ability to compose, sing or play instruments.

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence. People with strong logical-mathematical intelligence are skilled at deductive reasoning, detecting patterns and drawing logical conclusions. Such intelligence endows individuals with the ability to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses and carry out elaborate mathematical operations. 

Existential Intelligence. Individuals high in existential intelligence are drawn to existential and metaphysical pursuits. Issues such as the meaning of life, whether life has a purpose, what exactly happens when one dies and how did life evolve constitute the objects of inquiry for these individuals.

Interpersonal Intelligence. This kind of intelligence pretty much equates with what we now call emotional intelligence. It provides us the ability to understand others and interact effectively with them. According to Gardner, people with high interpersonal intelligence possess sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others and have the ability to entertain multiple perspectives.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence. People with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are adept at using their bodies to convey feelings and ideas. This intelligence also involves a keen sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind-body union as witnessed in dancing and sports. 

Linguistic Intelligence. As the name suggests, linguistic intelligence is proficiency in the use of language to process and communicate abstract thoughts. People high in linguistic intelligence are drawn to creative writing, story-telling, word games and solving crossword puzzles.

Intrapersonal Intelligence. This type of intelligence involves the ability to understand oneself. It enables deep understanding of one’s thoughts and feelings and the ability to use such understanding in organizing and directing one’s life. 

Spatial Intelligence. People with strong spatial intelligence possess the ability to comprehend three-dimensional images and shapes. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills.

This intelligence comes into play when figuring out maps and taking part in any type of construction or engineering projects.


Armed with an understanding of the nine types of intelligence, I set out to find exemplars for each type of intelligence within the gaming industry. The exemplars were senior executives or gaming scholars from the recent past or the present. In choosing particular people, my self-stipulation was that the individual should have a high level of name recognition within the industry. Having identified an exemplar with a certain type of intelligence does not mean that the individual lacks or does not use other types of intelligences. The intent here was to choose a known person who exhibited a particular type of intelligence to a high degree.

I first carried out a quick memory scan to come up with exemplars for the nine categories. This resulted in people I knew and people I knew of. The people I knew were comprised largely of individuals whom I have known for decades. I would consider a majority of these individuals as friends, though the list did include a person or two that I would not trust to look after my kitten! The list of people I knew of was comprised of people I had worked with in a professional capacity but did not know very well, or of individuals about whom a lot has been written in the popular press, enough to get a decent understanding of their primary intelligence.

Having created my list of exemplars for each of the nine intelligences, I then sent my categorization along with descriptors of each type of intelligence to three veteran executives from within the industry, people I have known for a long time and whose judgment I totally trust. I also asked each of the three executives to suggest additional names for each type of intelligence.

After hearing the thoughts of the three adjudicators, I created my final list of exemplars which appears in the below table. If your name appears on this list and you happen to read this article, let me know if you agree with my assessment, providing a rationale for your agreement or disagreement. If your name does not appear on the list, let me know what you think is your strongest intelligence. 

The intent of this article is not to slot people into iron-clad categories, but to appreciate the diversity of gifts among the industry’s leaders. Given the abnormal turbulence we all sense right now, I thought this light-hearted article would provide a pleasant distraction for many.

While Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory has been severely criticized on conceptual grounds (such as assumed independent “modular” nature of intelligences) and for lacking empirical support (Klein 1997; Waterhouse 2006), this fun article is not about the reliability and validity of MI. We will leave that topic for scholars in psychology and psychometry to duke out with Gardner.

In my opinion, MI provides a convenient framework for educated laypersons to discuss multiple abilities; whether these abilities constitute intelligences or not is a moot point from our perspective.

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